Allan Williams, the Beatles’ First Manager, Dies
Allan Williams, who served as the first manager of the Beatles, has died. He was 86.
The news was broken yesterday by the Jacaranda, the Liverpool club he had owned during the Beatles’ early years. “Today is one of the saddest days in our history,” they wrote on Facebook. “The Jacaranda's original owner and the man who discovered The Beatles, Allan Williams, has sadly passed away at the age of 86. All of our thoughts and wishes go to his family and his wife Beryl. His legacy has allowed us to remain at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for almost 60 years and his memory will live on through every band that plays our famous stage. Allan, you will be missed.”
Born in Liverpool on March 17, 1930, Williams opened the Jacaranda, then a coffee bar that featured live music, in 1958, where it was frequented by John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe, who were then students at Liverpool College of Art, and their bandmate Paul McCartney. Famously, they had asked Williams if their band could perform and instead he hired them to paint a mural for the ladies room. But he eventually let them play, both at the Jac and the Blue Angel, which he also owned. By 1960, he became their booking agent and manager, finding gigs for them throughout the city and booked them on a tour of Scotland as the backing band for Jimmy Gentle, a Liverpudlian singer.
During this time, he also formed a working relationship with Bruno Koschmider to send local bands to play residencies at Koschmider’s clubs in Hamburg, Germany. Williams offered up the Beatles, and Koschmider agreed, but on the condition that the band become a quintet. Needing a drummer — McCartney often filled in behind the kit when they couldn’t find someone — they auditioned Pete Best at the Jac and hired him a few days before departing for Hamburg. Williams would often speak about how the more established bands he sent to Hamburg didn’t want the upstart Beatles to go for fear of ruining it for them.
His tenure as manager came to an end less than a year later when the group negotiated a residency at Hamburg’s Top Ten Club, which began in April 1961, without him to avoid paying him a fee. According to Beatles Bible, when Brian Epstein first considered managing the Beatles, he asked Williams if there were any outstanding contracts between the two parties. Still hurt, Williams said, "Don't touch them with a f---ing bargepole; they will let you down."
However, Williams helped stage Beatles conventions in Liverpool in the ‘70s, and published a memoir called The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away in 1975. Two years later, a tape he owned of one of their performances in Hamburg was released as Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962, even though he was no longer their manager when it was recorded.